By Nurse Mark
Regular readers know that Dr. Myatt and I are RV’ers, traveling in our coach to speak and lecture.
We get to meet folks of all ages from all walks of life, but I must admit that the majority of folks we meet in RV parks are “mature” – retired, older, sometimes a lot older, and often with multitudes of medical woes to relate. That’s no surprise really, for anyone who has sixty, seventy, eighty, or ninety years of experience is bound to have an ache or pain or complaint or two.
What never ceases to amaze us though is the near-total complacency of many people with their medical situations and overall health.
So many seem quite content to see their conventional “insurance” doctor every six months or so for their 8 minute “checkup”, blurt out their litany of complaints, and meekly accept the hastily scribbled prescription for yet another drug to be added to the growing list of daily pills. Then it’s off to the pharmacy to buy the magic pills, and then home to resume life as usual, firmly convinced that they are “doing everything possible” for their health.
Once back in the company of their friends (or anyone who’ll listen) they regale all within earshot with their medical hard luck stories, complete with descriptions of surgeries, diagnoses, drugs, treatments, and even lab results. There is often a sense of “one-upmanship” to some of these round-table “discussions.”
The interesting common thread in these stories is that all these things are being done to them – not by them. There really isn’t much interest in taking responsibility for their own health beyond seeking out a doctor who will bill their insurance and order tests, drugs, treatments, or surgeries which the
victim patient blithely accepts.
For example: “Joe” was a nice enough fellow we parked next to. Joe was puttering and as I hooked up our RV we began to chat. The conversation turned to his health (as it often does when people see the Big Red Apple and Dr. Myatt’s name on our coach) and Joe launched into a recital of his litany of medical troubles – pills for his diabetes, pills for his blood pressure, pills for his cholesterol, pills for his heart, pills for his water, pills for his heartburn, and pills to put himself to sleep at night.
Joe had undergone a bunch of surgeries, for a variety of complaints – none of which seem to have done much good – but he was seeking yet another surgery in the hopes it would ease his aching back.
“At least,” he boasted, “I’ve got good insurance – otherwise I could never afford all this and I’d just have to suffer!”
But as Joe talked I could hear bitterness in his voice at a medical system that he felt was failing him in what should be his “golden years.” Having “worked hard and paid taxes” he felt that modern medicine only wanted to “push more pills” on him and his insurance plan wanted to make him “wait until I’m a cripple” for his desired surgery.
I was curious and asked Joe a few questions:
Did he take any vitamins or supplements? No, his doctor told him those were useless – they would only give him “expensive urine.” Besides he said, all that “natural stuff” wasn’t covered by his insurance; he’d worked hard for that insurance, so why should he have to pay good money out of pocket for something? If that stuff was worth anything the insurance plan would pay for it, right?
Hmmm… I wondered how expensive his urine is with all those prescription drugs?
I asked did he do any exercise? Yep, he said proudly, golfing keeps him in pretty good shape, except he gets “kinda out-o’-breath” walking from the golf cart to the tee sometimes if he has to park too far away. His aching back kept him from doing any “heavy exercise” though, and besides; his doctor had told him he should “take it easy” and “don’t over-do it” on account of his heart problems. This, from a man with skinny legs and arms and a drum-tight carbohydrate-induced pot-belly that made him look about 8 months pregnant with twins…
Hmmm… I wondered if that belly had anything to do with the aching back or shortness of breath?
What about diet? I asked (knowing already what the answer would be)… Well, he said, his doctor sent him to a dietitian who told him to follow the ADA approved “Diabetic Diet” – and he thought that was working pretty well except he got “low blood sugar” a lot and needed to have a mid-morning snack to keep him from feeling jittery and a mid-afternoon nap because he was always so sleepy after lunch…
But he said his wife fed him “real healthy” with oatmeal at breakfast, whole wheat bread in his lunchtime sandwich, and potatoes or rice or beans or pasta (whole wheat of course!) for supper – just like that ADA diabetic diet said.
They had given up beef because they heard it causes cancer, and everything he ate was low fat because his doctor told him his cholesterol was too high. He avoided protein because someone said it was “bad for the kidneys” and besides, he needed the bread and potatoes and pasta “to fill up on.”
As a “Child of The Depression” he had memories of hunger during those years and sometimes he would “cheat” on his diet – but if he did that he would just take an extra pill… After all he said, his insurance plan paid for his medicines.
Hmmm… I wondered if all that ADA-approved carbohydrate might be keeping him a diabetic?
I gave up on the health questions at this point – I’d heard enough and was feeling discouraged for him.
Joe was meticulously polishing an immaculate 4 wheel drive pickup truck that he pulled behind his sparklingly beautiful motor coach – both were obviously a great source of pride for Joe so I asked him about the pickup.
He told me how it was a few years old now, but he had taken “real good care” of it since new – he serviced it and changed the oil regularly, even more often than the manual called for. He washed and polished it at every stop. He rotated the tires regularly to keep them from wearing unevenly. Nothing but the best fuel and oil were ever allowed – no “cheap stuff” for this little truck, and a fuel additive went into the tank with each fill-up to keep the fuel system clean.
Always driving carefully, never harshly or abusively, he said he made a point to take it out on the highway every week or so “to blow out the carbon and keep it running smooth” and carefully drove off-road in 4 wheel drive at least once a month as directed in his manual to keep the drivetrain lubricated and “exercised.”
He told me how he had a buddy who had a similar truck with several hundred thousand miles on it, and he was aiming to better that record by taking even better care of this truck – he just knew he could do it even if sometimes he had to budget carefully to pay for the extra maintenance.
I wished Joe good luck and we went our separate ways – him to relax with a smoke and a lite beer after his hard work of polishing and cleaning, and me to exercise the dogs (and me) who had been cooped up for a few hours as we drove.
I thought about Joe, and about how many are like him.
Joe knows how to keep his truck in the peak of health and fitness – and as things stand now, it will easily outlive him.
If he would only apply the same techniques to himself he might easily live long enough to outlast several trucks.
But alas, while Joe doesn’t mind paying out-of-pocket to maintain that little truck, the thought of paying out-of-pocket to maintain his own health offends him.
Why can’t Joe and folks like him take responsibility for their own health the same way they do for their other possessions?
Isn’t good health our most important possession?
Why will folks pay more to maintain their vehicles, their stock portfolios, or their hobbies than their health?
With some good integrative health advice, good food, good optimal dose vitamins and supplements, regular exercise, clean air and clean water, and regular detoxing to look after the inevitable toxins of daily life – Joe could probably throw away the pills and add happy, active decades to his life.
But I’m guessing that won’t happen.
For people like Joe it’s far easier to make personal health the responsibility of a pill-pushing, scalpel-wielding, insurance-billing doctor.
Too bad – but maybe I’ll be able to buy that nice little truck from Joe’s estate…
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